Table topper aims high

Archana Kamath is keen to raise the bar in her chosen sport
Last Updated : 21 May 2016, 18:48 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2016, 18:48 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2016, 18:48 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2016, 18:48 IST

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Unlike the many fascinating tales that generally surround sporting prodigies, Archana Kamath’s impressive journey has been marked with simplicity.

Ever since she started playing table tennis at the age of nine, Archana has kept her visions clear and the 15-year-old Bengaluru girl has been climbing the ladder of success at a rapid rate.

After enjoying a terrific season last year on the junior circuit, Archana tasted consistent success at the international level. Starting off with two bronze medals (singles and doubles) at the Italian Junior Open, Archana raised the bar to bag the silver in the cadet girls’ team of the Belgium Open. The youngster then struck gold in the cadet girls’ doubles category at the French Open.

Archana’s big moment arrived when she became the first Indian girl to make the quarterfinals of the ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals in Indore. Archana didn’t disappoint in her maiden appearance, finishing a creditable fifth.

Daughter of eye specialists Girish and Anuradha Kamath, Archana’s interest in the game was spurred by her brother Abhinav, who was an ardent table tennis lover. What began as a hobby of playing the sport with her brother soon became a serious pursuit.

“We encouraged her in music and dance to see where her interests lie. Despite introducing her to various co-curricular activities at a very young age, Archana remained keen on table tennis and we are glad to have supported her,” says Anuradha.

Learning the basics of the game from Praveen Joshi, a senior State coach, Archana’s first major triumph came in 2013, when she bagged the singles title in the sub-junior nationals in Ajmer.

“That was my first gold at the national level and it will always remain very memorable,” says Archana, who is undergoing a training stint in Germany with Peter Engel, India’s former national coach.

Dominating the national scene on a regular basis since her triumph in Ajmer, Archana slowly became the player to watch out for on the junior circuit in India. Archana has so far accounted for 17 medals at the national stage, including 11 gold and the Bengaluru girl’s commitment towards her training has taken her to great heights, feel her parents.

“She is coached by Bona Thomas John (Cantonment Rail Club) and Aloysius Sagayaraj (MSSTA), and her determination to be regular in her training has helped her become a fierce competitor. She trains six hours every day and these two coaches have contributed immensely in shaping her career,” says her mother.Travelling across the globe for various tournaments, Archana is slowly learning to face the tough phase with grace.

“For me it is a tough phase every time I lose. Initially the bitterness would last long and but as I keep playing, I am learning to respect the efforts of my opponents as well. Even though a defeat still hurts, the feeling doesn't last that long,” notes Archana, who received the Ekalavya award earlier this month.

Supported by the Olympic Gold Quest, Archana made her debut at the Senior Nationals this year. “Table Tennis is a wonderful game for the body, mind and the soul. I have wonderful coaches who have made me feel that table tennis is my life,” she says.

Archana’s focus and dedication towards the game has been the secret behind her achievements, feels coach Sagayaraj.

“I begin training every day at 5:30 am and she is ready by 5:00 am. It is very difficult to find a player so committed to a sport at such a young age. Archana stands apart for her aggressive nature of play. She is very attacking in her style and if she continues to work hard on her fitness and on her game, she will definitely win more medals at the international level,” remarks Sagayaraj.

Sporting commitments may keep her busy, but Archana is equally impressive in her academics. The youngster recently finished her 10th standard at the Poorna Prajna Education Centre (Sadashivanagar) with 98.72%, with a staggering score of 617/625.

“Throughout her schooling, Archana was well supported by her teachers. They believed in Archana’s potential and provided the required flexibility to balance her academics and sporting responsibilities. There was never a doubt in her teachers’ mind about her learning capabilities,” says Anuradha.

Archana is a proven achiever in the junior circuit, but a long road beckons the youngster who aims to succeed more at the international level.

“I want to work hard and bring laurels to our country. I have grown up seeing Saina Nehwal play and she is my inspiration. I want to succeed at the international level and see our tri-colour fly high,” she beams.

Published 21 May 2016, 17:32 IST

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